Some federal employees’ dirty laundry will soon be aired to the public, under a new policy instituted by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The IG’s office notified members of Congress last week it would make public summary reports of misconduct by Justice senior management -- meaning employees at the General Schedule 15 level, Senior Executive Service members and higher ranking officials -- and other investigations of “significant public interest.” Previously, such investigations would remain hidden from public view unless the department decided to prosecute the officials and a federal court released the records.
Justice IG Michael Horowitz chairs the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, the organization that oversees and sets policy for IGs across the federal government, leaving open the possibility he could seek to expand the effort.
Jay Lerner, chief of staff to Horowitz, said in an email to certain lawmakers the decision was part of an effort to “provide greater transparency about investigative findings.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, lauded the decision, saying Horowitz was “leading by example.”
“This ought to be standard operating procedure for every inspector general,” Grassley said. “Their work is too important to keep secret.” He added that public disclosure of the reports will make it harder for “agencies to ignore an embarrassing” finding. He also said the policy would improve accountability, noting “agencies that aren’t doing their jobs or have employees who waste the taxpayers’ money ought to be flushed out of the shadows.”
Grassley introduced the Inspector General Empowerment Act earlier this year, which would, among other things, require IGs across government to report on investigations of misconduct by senior management. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the measure in May.
The long-time transparency advocate has pushed for the issuance of such reports for years, though Justice is the first to officially institute such a policy. A Grassley spokeswoman said the IG made the decision in anticipation of the IG empowerment bill becoming law.
Justice’s IG office has already issued its first report on employee misconduct, finding an unnamed U.S. marshal engaged in “intimate personal relationships” with subordinate employees. That marshal has retired, the IG said.
(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)